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Resonant material processing using (ultra-)short laser pulses

The invention relates to the usage of a tunable, resonant electromagnetic field for both, the targeted fabrication of structures with dimensions smaller than the used beam diameter and the targeted fabrication of ultra small particles. Therefore, the electromagnetic field that is created by an ultra short laser pulse on the surface of an object is superposed with an external field to achieve a resonance rise specific to the processed material.

Challenge

The conventional fabrication of micro- or nano-structured surfaces is of great interest for a huge amount of industrial or R&D applications. Using (ultra) short laser pulses, so called LISOS ("laser induced self organizing structures") can be produced quite easily. Since the process is taking place in close vicinity to the ablation threshold, small laser intensities suffice to fabricate these LISOS. However, to process larger areas the average laser power needs to be increased to several kilowatts. Taking today's state of the art, this results in high acquisition and maintenance costs for the needed laser systems consequently raising the inhibition threshold in industry.

Our Solution

When an electromagnetic field (e.g. that of a laser) hits a surface, it propagates within the irradiated material and, depending on the laser geometry and the properties of the material, modes develop. If the material is excited resonantly (i.e. with a material-specific frequency) these modes create standing waves leading to local increase or decrease of the electromagnetic field on the surface. Hills are represented by nodes, valleys by antinodes. The emerging structures have dimensions which are in the order of the wavelength of the laser making them considerably smaller than the actual beam diameter. The goal is now to find these resonance conditions for a variety of materials and to reliably adjust them. This task can be immensely facilitated by applying an external electric or magnetic field that superposes the electromagnetic field of the laser. This can also be achieved by radiating the sample with microwaves. Now the shape of the resonant modes can be directly controlled by modulating the applied electromagnetic field. Easy control of the resonant modes can be used to shape the structural surface parameters like the relative pattern distance or the average height distribution.

Advantages

Only due to the resonant material processing technique a diversity of industrial applications become economically feasible or at least much more cost effective.

  • Reduction of the necessary laser power
  • Targeted development of nano- and micro-structures
  • Easy adjustment and control of the resonance conditions through external fields
  • Usage of more efficient materials.

Applications

Some application areas of the resonant material processing technique are mentioned below:

  • Lowering of the reflexion of semiconductors resulting in an increase of the efficiency of photovoltaics
  • Increasing the sensitivity of photo detectors
  • Increasing the surface of the effective area
    • for catalytical applications (e.g. increasing the effectiveness of LiCoO2-cathodes used in Lithium-Ion batteries)
    • for tribological applications (e.g. to increase and locally confine friction parameters)
    • for medical purposes (e.g. controlling cell growth, proliferation and adhesion)
  • Modification of surface properties on the micrometer scale by amplifying chemical reactions (like oxidations) in the vicinity of nodes or antinodes
  • Functionalization of surfaces (e.g. for lowering the wetting)
  • Controlled fabrication of ultra small particles.

Developmental Status

The inventors have reproducibly structured surfaces of several materials. Using a 7W laser system, large areas of silicon substrates have been machined with a speed of almost 16 mm2/s. The used crystals where multi-crystalline substrates that are much cheaper than mono-crystalline substrates but cannot be machined using etching technologies. The increase in effectiveness with respect to results that have been obtained by simple etching was about 0.21% (absolute). A theoretical ansatz exists which allows to calculate the laser fluence and the external field for any final surface structure. In addtion, a laser machining setup combined with microwave generated electromagnetic fields was developed and successfully tested for different materials.

Patent Status

German patent application: DE102012025294 (A1)
Patent applicant: Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH)

Contact

Dr. Ireneusz Iwanowski
Patent Manager (Physics, Technology and Software)
E-Mail: iiwanowski(at)sciencebridge.de
Tel.: +49 (0) 551 30 724 153
www.sciencebridge.de
Reference: CPA-1538-LZH

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